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The Learning Conference 2003

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Teacher Change and Curriculum Integration: Three Stories From a Case Study

Huang Yi-Ying.

In the context where three public high school teachers collaboratively developed and implemented an integrated curriculum module, the purpose of this qualitative research was then to probe the process of teacher change through experiencing and reflecting on curriculum integration.
Research questions were as follows:
I. Did teachers change during the process of developing and implementing integrated curriculum? If so, what changes were shown in their beliefs and classroom practices?
II. How did teachers' experiencing and reflecting upon curriculum integration relate to their changes in beliefs and classroom practices?
III. How did they interpret their changes and develop their own meaning of curriculum integration?
The analyzed data were transformed into three stories, written respectively from the first, second and third person points of view. The trial of transforming analyzed data into such three stories was an important decision in this research, the purpose of which was to increase the variety, readability and furthermore, generalization of the analyzed data. Discussion and conclusion of each research question were as follows.
According to the meaning of "change" indicated previously as a benchmark for examination, the three teacher participants did change during the process of developing and implementing integrated curriculum.
Translation, Transformation and Transition of Beliefs
One changes his/her beliefs or points of view in three ways. Rachel's coming to believe that teaming can motivate her to learn reflected a kind of translation, where she threw away the old belief for this new one. She did not integrate what might be right with the old or discriminate the value of the new belief from its possible overstatements.
Rachel's seeing curriculum as a network of good ideas and Gina's believing that a teacher should reflect more before change and leave room for chance revealed a kind of transformation. They allowed these contradictory opposites not only to coexist and interact, but to synthesize a new unity that was meaningful to themselves.
The beliefs that reflected a kind of transition included: (1) Rachel's finding that choices provide ownership and that flexibility and sympathy are as important as creativity; (2) Gina's searching for the meaning of teaching; and (3) Anita's discovering the importance of integration and journaling and that she has been doing integrated curriculum in her classroom for a long time, and later her starting exploring other career alternatives. The above changes occurred in sudden jumps, which resulted from (1) a disruption in the balanced circulation of energy and (2) the shifted attention to alternative, pre-established MMPs (material manifestation points). Ownership, sympathy and flexibility, the meaning of teaching, value of integration and journaling, one's subconsciously doing integration, and careers except teaching are the MMPs in those transitions.
Connect With Students: From the Changed Classroom Practices Perspective
With respect to changes in classroom practices, Rachel started helping students search for the meaning of learning. Such a change made Rachel and her students tightly coupled. Rachel brought herself to her students--shared with them her background, feelings, experiences and happiness and was sympathetic to their difficulties in learning or personal problems. In other words, Rachel viewed students as friends or her own children from a second person point of view.
As to Gina, she tried to attract students' attention to integrated curriculum, evaluated students with authentic assessment approaches and integrated subjects through reflection or imagination. Anita started teaching "null curriculum," what teachers seldom teach, that is, students have few opportunities to learn--in the classroom. She discussed what issues were missing in the textbook and why. Both Gina's and Anita's changes in classroom practices revealed their viewing students from a third person point of view; namely, Gina and Anita were still detached from or not very tightly coupled with their students when they changed.
On the one hand, experience as trying involves change and it is only with reflection that such an experience or change has meaning to the actor (Dewey, 1916). It can be said that experience provides opportunities for reflection and that experience with meaning requires reflection.
On the other hand, reflection has a nature of making connections; if one keeps reflecting, he/she may keep making connections and renewing. Reflection provides opportunities to make various connections via different reflective emphases such as retrospection, deliberation, reflection as emancipation, reflection in action and conscious awareness.
Rachel enrolled the graduate course on curriculum integration for she wanted to know more about curriculum integration and learn more teaching techniques from other teachers. Later, in the process of experiencing developing and implementing integrated curriculum, Rachel reflected upon not only the concept of curriculum integration but also her way of teaching and the relationship with her partner, Anita. Rachel's reflection was more like retrospection and emancipation. In retrospection, she was turning her thoughts back on prior life, teaching and teaming experiences to make new sense of them and to learn from them. Namely, she was making connections between her present evaluative criteria and the experiences in the past. That she kept reflecting in the journal and surveys, and conversing with the researcher during the research process, helped her create her own meaning of curriculum integration, which became her new evaluative criteria. Reflection as emancipation is a mode of reflection where one makes connections between his/her own socioeconomic and political position with the issues of justice, equality and freedom. Such reflection was significant when Rachel reflected upon Anita's over-severity to her LD students, and attended to the hegemony in the Inclusion program where she and Anita worked together.
Gina participated in the graduate course on curriculum integration for she wanted to try a new approach in her classroom. She thought that curriculum integration might help her special education students learn better the 3Rs and hear different interpretations of the same issue from different teachers. Her reflection was more like retrospection and conscious awareness. In the journal and surveys, and the letters to the researcher, she thought of prior interactions in the research process, and reflected upon her own consciousness--she was making connections between her consciousness and her attention to teaching, curriculum planning and LD students' abilities to survive in society. That is, Gina started consciously searching for the meaning of being an LD teacher and she also recognized the importance of such a self-understanding.
Anita took the graduate course on curriculum integration for she wanted to know the differences between what she had known about curriculum integration and what she would know through the course. Revealed in the journal, surveys and conversations with the researcher, Anita had more reflective emphases: retrospection, reflection-in-action, and conscious awareness. Her positioning herself as soldier and strategist helped her make sense of and then work competently with today's students who could not be well understood. Reflecting in action, she made connections between her efforts and strategies to improve the classroom discipline, efficiency of students' learning, and the actual changes occurring in the classroom. In retrospection, Anita turned her thoughts back on her experience with developing and implementing an integrated curriculum to evaluate the effectiveness of the whole process. In addition, with conscious awareness, Anita paid attention to her reflecting on journaling, through which she started searching for the meaning of being a teacher, other career alternatives and the question of how to evaluate her own reflective journal.
In this study, deliberation, a process of reasoning about practical problems and searching for the optimal solution (McCutcheon, 1995), was significant in this study whenever the three teachers co-planned and co-taught the Vietnam War module. They took another look at some teaching techniques they had taken for granted for teaching certain content, and then searched for other alternatives.
This was a question probing the issue of self-change awareness--whether or not the three teachers knew that their beliefs and classroom practices had changed during the whole process. The findings revealed that the teachers were aware of their own changes. Most of the time, they expressed their changes by saying, "I found out..."; "I realized..."; "I learned..."; "I discovered..."; "I became..."; "It's amazing to see..."; "I think the difference is..."; and "I'm touched…." Those reflected their awareness of their own changes and started using the term "change" to describe their changes during the one-year research.
Be Aware of Change
Teachers usually appear to most observers more here-and-now-oriented, more concerned with the immediacies of their present routines, present scheduling problems, and present details of course studies. They are apt to perceive change as a break in their routine. It may be claimed that not every change is good, but every change is a possibility. This may be what a teacher needs for help. If change is part of the implicit order of every system and if a teacher is likewise a part of the implicit order, then these two parts just should connect together, and work together as members of a team.
All things are in a state of flux, and everything is brought into being with a changing nature (Morgan, 1986). Change is part of the nature of human beings and is a kind of responsibility especially to teachers. How can teachers facilitate the minds of the young if they do not see their own relationship with the changing order?
Thus, in addition to self-change awareness, it is important for teachers to be aware of change as the implicit order. To most of them, their subconsciousness about the world that all the pieces come together like cogs in a cosmic machine reflects their subconscious expectation that everything in the classroom will go on as usual. Usually, they may become conscious of such an expectation when things happen unexpectedly. It is not until they become aware of the uncertainty following their expectations and the changing nature of every system that they are ready for "being the flux." At least, they will not subconsciously resist every change or afraid of facing their own changes. With such awareness about their own consciousness, teachers may feel more comfortable to take further steps searching for more holistic interpretations or ways to deal with their resistance or uncertainty. If one wants to help teachers become consciously aware of their own change, he/she may need to remind teachers of paying attention to their own attention, and reflecting on both their explicit and tacit awareness of an experience.
Curriculum as the Teacher Self, Differences Between Teachers, Knowledge
Rachel, Gina and Anita revealed their own meaning of curriculum integration in the journal, surveys, letters and conversations with the researcher. Curriculum integration to Rachel was the integration of a teacher's (or a team of teachers') life experiences, content knowledge, teaching techniques and ideas, which enrich the lesson plans designed for a theme or problem-solving situation. Rachel's interpretation emphasized the integration of the teacher self--one's intellect and affect, personal and professional life. Gina regarded curriculum integration as an approach of reinforcement or repetition, by which students are situated in a process where they can hear the same subject or theme covered in different ways and by different teachers. Gina's interpretation focused on the integration of differences between teachers. The job of integrating or making connections between those differences was left to the students themselves. From Anita's perspective, curriculum integration is a good strategy that can maximize teaching time, help students recall what they learn, and make meaningful connections between skills and content of different subjects from one chapter to another. Anita's interpretation, blurring the man-made distinctions, emphasized the integration of knowledge.
Obviously, the curricula in Rachel's, Gina's and Anita's own classroom were not limited in the form of subjects. In fact, the three teachers had their own belief about what students should learn in integrated curriculum. Rachel viewed curriculum integration from a first person point of view, where her own life and professional experiences were indeed the curriculum that she gave her students the opportunity to learn. Gina and Anita viewed curriculum integration from a more detached, third person point of view. To Gina, the differences between teachers, and to Anita, the content knowledge itself and skills were the curriculum.


Huang Yi-Ying  (Taiwan)
Associate Prof.
Institute of Teacher Education
National Chengchi University

Dr. Huang obtained her Ph.D. from the Ohio State University, and specializes in curriculum theory, systems theory, and knowing renewal. Current interests are theory construction of practical knowledge renewal, and the complex connections between the language, thought, and existence.

  • Teacher change
  • Curriculum integration
  • Belief
  • Classroom practice

(30 min Conference Paper, English)